Oregon, Photography, Thoughts and Lessons Learned

Just Living – Golden Hour on the Farm

“I am tired.”

If you’ve spoken to me at all in the last two months, my bet is that this was said early on in the conversation. Usually I try to stay away from default answers like “I’m tired” or “I’m busy” when I’m catching up with someone, because the reality is we are all busy and tired, and we all measure those differently. Personally, I think we are all capable of being better conversationalists.

But the truth is in this case, when I finally made it home to Oregon for my vacation at home with my family, this was all I could muster up when my Grampy asked how my work meeting in Seattle, (that I had just traveled from) went.

My body was tired, my brain was tired and I’d even say my soul was tired.

Both professionally and personally, this season of life over of the past six months or so has really pushed me. Its tested me and even broke me a couple of times. And that’s all OK. These seasons come and go, and I think it’s important to keep that in mind. I believe that sometimes you just have to put your head down and work, and do what you have to do to get by.

That first evening when I got home I immediately jumped on my laptop to knock out a few things related to the meeting I had just traveled from. But the sun was starting to set and the scene I could see through my parent’s big kitchen window could not be ignored.

So I grabbed my camera and headed out to sit in the yard with our old family dog Jack and just paused for a bit.

It’s amazing how little things like that can refocus things for you.

It’s a beautiful world sometimes I don’t see so clear
Some days you just breath in
Just try to break even
Sometimes your heart’s poundin’ out of your chest
Sometimes it’s just beatin’
Some days you just forget
What all you’ve been given
Some days you just get back
And some days you’re just alive
Some days you’re livin’
Some days you’re livin’

Family, Love Letters

Livin’ on Love for 25 Years


Today is my parent’s 25th wedding anniversary.

I’m living out here in D.C. and my sister is currently in Utah at a college golf tournament.
It’s the middle of the school week, so Dad was at work before the sun comes up and it’s also Tuesday, so Mom might be prepping the weekly shipment of roses to go into the cooler at the shop.
Life will probably go on as any other day, and I know my parents wouldn’t have it any other way.
But it’s important for them to know how important this is to Janci and I.
Words might be a strange gift, but it’s the best kind that I know how to give.

Mr & Mrs Tom Spoo    Cake

You know when you are growing up, you don’t really think much about love, marriage and your parents as a couple. They’re Mom and Dad. They’ve always been a part of your story, there to do what parents are supposed to do.

It wasn’t until I left for college that I started to see who they were from a different perspective. As I met new people, I saw different family dynamics, examples of love, marriage and ways to raise a family. And while I have a lot of respect for those differences and families, I began to realize the significance of what I had and how much it had impacted who I was.

Julie & Tom dad grin

It’s hard to summarize who my parents are in one blog post.
You know my dad as Tom, the ag teacher turned principal, who enjoys cooking for people and wears a flat brimmed cowboy hat. And you know my Mom as Julie, who owns our family’s 3rd generation flower shop and drinks endless amounts of Diet Coke.

But together, they are our parents. Dad is our superhero and Mom is our very own Gilmore Girl. They certainly are not perfect, and thats what makes what our family has, so special.
Our parents have never really sheltered us. The world is big, scary, confusing and unfair. But they’ve shown us that it is also bold, beautiful, forgiving, kind and full of opportunity.
We’ve seen them yell, struggle to communicate and both be stubborn to a fault. But we’ve also seen what it means to work as a team, to trust and forgive, be patient and to always, always give each other grace.

easter 2000 P1020730

Over the years, I’ve gotten some weird looks and rolled eyes when I tell people that my parents truly are two of my best friends. But to be honest, I don’t really think that was their true intention, it just sort of happened that way. Janci and I practically grew up at the flower shop and when we weren’t there, we were in Dad’s classroom or riding along in the truck on his endless errands. No, we didn’t have a lot of fancy vacations or structured cookie cutter family time – what we had was better. Our parents shared themselves with us. Their careers, passions, habits and interests.  There is a reason Janci and I have creative minds and can’t sit down during basketball games. It’s for the same reason that we listen to Kris Kristofferson and eat tacos when we are homesick.

county fair award mom dad dogs

In return, our parents also invested themselves in the things that made their kids happy. We became curious about the world around us because we all talked, shared and listened to each other. Dad learned to enjoy jamming to Kelly Clarkson and Mom fought through her late summer allergies to spend the week at the county fair. They made sure we knew that they were always in our corner, no matter what.

My parents have built their marriage and our family on laughter. So much so that I’ve found that elsewhere in life, the people I can laugh with are the people that I trust and respect the most. Laughter should be easy, cheesy and shared. In our family you have to be witty, onery and willing to laugh at yourself, if you are going to keep up.

parents couple photo  george strait concert

Above all though, the most important thing that they’ve taught us through their 25 years of marriage, is what it means to live on love. They taught us to believe in it, value it and to live for it.  There may still be lot that Janci and I both have left to learn about love, but in my mind we have the best teachers because theirs is mushy, steadfast and shared.

Love is my Dad not turning in for the night before grabbing a cold Diet Coke for Mom, who has already gone upstairs. But in return, she will be expected to be able to hold a conversation with him at 5 a.m. when he’s up and getting ready for work.

It is the way my Dad giggles when Mom gets really irritated with him and uses “Thomas Spoo” like he’s a four year old in trouble. And its how she knows exactly what volume to talk at so that he can’t hear her because he refuses to wear his hearing aids at home.

Love is the fact that my Mom will never stop blaming Dad for saving the dog before her when the truck caught on fire. And it’s also why she took Janci to get her ears pierced as a toddler just to spite him.

It is the reason I get a phone call every year on her birthday or Christmas when he is clothes shopping for her, because he thinks that magically through the phone I am going to be able to tell him that yes it will fit and yes, I think she will like it. I am not sure why he does that, because it is always perfect.

Love tastes like chicken and dumplings, sour dough cinnamon rolls and taco soup. It’s the sound of the truck pulling in the drive, the way Mom always smells like a bouquet of flowers and the feel of crisp, newly ironed button up shirts.

It is the reason my Mom has not had a real garage in 10 years, and Dad faithfully hauls in the mass amount of Christmas decorations each year.

Love is the reason that our living room doesn’t get used much. Because no matter how many times they said “no more,” the four of us are always most at home sprawled across their bedroom in the evenings to watch a movie or TV. It’s a good thing that as we grew up, their master bedroom got bigger.

 It’s 25 years of  a lot of big, proud moments and even more little ones everyday. It is all of the stories that Janci and I do know, and the ones that we don’t.

Dear Mom and Dad,
Because of you, we believe in every cheesy country love song that we hear on the radio.
Someday Janci and I hope that we can have 25 years that look like yours.
We love being your baby girls.

Happy Anniversary.
– Mandy and Jancz



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Happy Birthday Dad!

Amanda picture


Back  two years ago during one of my previous stints in blogging,
I  wrote: “12/12/12: 12 Reasons for Dad” (Go read it…now!)
It’s a pretty good snapshot of who he is, and rereading it made me laugh.

It’s easy to tell that I adore my dad.
But the thing that strikes me the most when I reread that post, is that now as a college graduate and “adult,” I see this list with new eyes. Sure my favorite things about him will probably always stay the same, but our relationship and my appreciation for who he is, seems to be growing in a new way. I have always been lucky to have a great relationship with my parents, so I don’t know if I’m alone in this, but I am kind of fascinated about “getting to know” your parents as an adult.

Over and over, I find myself laughing at habits and quirks that I inherited from him.
Some are irritating, while others are charming. Or at least that’s what we tell ourselves.
My sense of humor, selective hearing and ability to talk until the cows come home.

A strong love for gas station coffee, outlaw country music, reading and pigs.
We are outgoing introverts – we are social and comfortable,
but we definitely need time to step back and think.
We prefer to always be busy and may have an OCD tendency, or two.
I get all of that from him.


But its the best things about him that I hope to be someday.
And there is so much more that I have to learn from him.
My dad values integrity, responsibility and hard work.
He is a lifelong learner, a true student of life.
When my dad looks at people he sees strengths, potential and progress.
He often ask a lot from others, but only because he offers twice as much of himself.
While so many other work to live, my dad truly lives to work.
To him, a career isn’t worth having if you aren’t passionate about it,
and to be honest I really haven’t come across many that are
more passionate about education and kids’ future as he is.

 Yah, he’s a pretty swell guy and I sure do love him.
I hope you had a wonderful day Daddy! I’ll see you in just a few days.


A Spoo Kind of Love

Tomorrow people are either going to be full of sugar, rainbows and butterflies — or they are going to be hosting their own pity party. Then of course there are those people who will laugh it off because “it’s not even a real holiday.”

My view on Valentine’s Day is a little bit different though. Sure, I agree that it is a holiday about celebrating love, but for me it will always be about my family. Growing up in a family floral business means that every memory that I have of this holiday is at our shop, working alongside each other on our single most busy business day of the year. So tomorrow while I’m in class, I’ll be thinking about them, how crazy the store is, what ridiculous orders they got in and wondering how many times my ornery grandpa has made my mom and grandma want to throw something at him.

When it comes to other people I meet and the process in which you share about each other’s families, I always get the sense that mine is just a little bit different, a slight bit less than average. I come from a young family, which means that I am blessed to have relationships with my grandparents, great aunts and uncles, and have known almost all of my great grandparents. We are relatively small, even when you start extending, but in many ways I think that makes us closer. My family is very creative, hard-working and values the time that we invest in each other. Growing up in a family business has taught me a lot about communication, trust and teamwork. Sometimes that lifestyle was challenging, but many of my best memories growing up revolve around the flower shop. From the outside looking in one might call us a little crazy. Being teased is a sign of affection and a good dose of sarcasm and wit is a must have on the resume. To say we are stubborn is an understatement, but to me that translates into a strength that often puts me in awe of many members of my family. They are by far my favorite subject to talk about.

This last Christmas my intermediate family had family pictures taken for the first time since 1997.

That was then.

I keep it in my planner so I that I can see their faces everyday.

I keep it in my planner so I that I can see their faces everyday.

This is now.


This is my baby sister Janci, 18 and our favorite pup Jack.


These are my adorable rock star parents, Tom and Julie. He’s my hero and she’s my Gilmore Girl. Their example of love is what makes me a believer in it.


My best friends.


We are definitely daddy’s girls.



I’m so lucky that they are all mine. I wish I could hug them everyday.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

– Amanda


12/12/12: 12 Reasons for Dad

We’re closing in on day 3 of finals week. You would think that they would give some sort of reward to seniors who have already put in their share of “life threatening” finals. Yes, I am being a bit dramatic. That tends to happen when I am this tired.

Photo courtesy of Robert and Billie Luke.

Amidst this crazy week people sure are making a big deal out of 12/12/12. Of course I know that this is a “once in a lifetime” type of thing, but in retrospect the only unordinary thing about my day is the increased amount of ridiculous things I have said or done because of the lack of sleep.

However, there is one thing that should be celebrated today, and it is definitely worth taking a study break. Today is my dad’s birthday! If you haven’t had the chance to meet my dad then you are definitely missing out, because he’s pretty darn cool.

So to celebrate, here are 12 reasons why my dad is so great!

1. His sense of humor is great. However I don’t know what is more entertaining, his giggle or how he antagonizes my mom.

Dad and I this past spring at a friend’s wedding that he catered.

2. After being the only guy in the house for so long he’s become pretty good at doing the little things for his girls.

4. He is an educator, it’s not his job, its his passion and he is fiercely dedicated to making a difference.

3. His taste in music is…random. Sure he was a teenager in the 80’s and loves his country…but he has this loyal respect for good vocals. Two words: Kelly Clarkson.

5. He is a great coach. In school, sports, FFA and essentially all other things he has always been my go-to-guy. He will always give it to you straight and sticks with you to the end.

6. He is a REALLY, REALLY good cook. If you haven’t had a taste of “Cookin’ Spoo Style,” you haven’t really lived yet.

My parents and I on their visit to K-State this fall for a home football game.

7. One of the most important things he taught me was to take risks and not to settle for less than what is important to you, even if it means questioning others, of course, except his parenting 🙂

8. So many of the things that I love are because of him. Basketball, western movies, taste in music, coffee, reading, pigs, being outside, all things country and the list goes on and on. Most of all though is his love for agriculture and encouraging me to pursue a career dedicated to it.

9. I have a lot of great childhood memories with him, although early morning breakfasts with black coffee and a Kris Kristofferson Greatest Hits cd will always be my favorite.

My sister, Janci and I, as a freshman and senior in highschool wearing Dad’s old Prairie City football jerseys during homecoming week.

10. He loves my mom and he shows it. I have learned, especially since being in college, that not everyone grew up in a home like mine. My parents have something special and because of their example, I believe in that cheesy real love that all the songs talk about.

11. On top of being an educator and a cook, he also is an artist. How cool is that?

12. He is one of the hardest working, most humble individuals I know and I am extremely proud to be his daughter, especially when others have so many quality things to say about him.

Happy Birthday Daddy! Excited to see you in just three days!

– Amanda

Life Notes

#MonthofThanksgiving – Part 2

Presenting part numero dos of my “#MonthofThanksgiving.” At first thinking of things that we are thankful for is pretty easy; mom, dad, friends, the dog and in my case, coffee. But I’ve found that I am really enjoying sitting for a few minutes each day and really thinking a little more in depth about things that I take for granted or don’t think about actually be “thankful” for. Just a thought to sure.

Thanksgiving day is this week! Hope everyone has a wonderful day with their family and friends!

#Day11 I am thankful for my uncle and our military who sacrafice everyday for our #freedom #merica #MonthofThanksgiving

Mom and I in Cabo last January. She’s a goof.

#Day12 I am thankful for my mom and my #bestfriend You can thank her for my stubborn streak and caffeine addiction#MonthofThanksgiving

#Day13 I am thankful for being raised in beautiful #EasternOregon. There’s something special about that way of life#MonthofThanksgiving

#Day14 I am thankful for obstacles that challenge me to work harder and be a better person #nopainnogain #MonthofThanksgiving

#Day15 I am thankful to have this #KState #family, hard to describe how important they are to this out of state girl #MonthofThanksgving

#Day16 I am thankful for my Daddy & all he does for our family & in education. He is the hardest worker I know #MonthofThanksgiving

Dad and I at my friend’s wedding this last spring that he cooked for.

#Day17 I am thankful for #lazydays, time to relax, refresh and refocus #MonthofThanksgiving

#Day18 I am thankful for #music, as a dancer and a lover of words, I can’t imagine a world without the art of sound #MonthofThanksgiving

#Day19 I am thankful for beautiful sunshine even on a cold fall day it makes everything about my day that much brighter #MonthofThanksgiving

#Day20 I am thankful to have been taught to strive towards finding & having a good balance of self-confidence & grace #MonthofThanksgiving

– Amanda Jae